The Newcastle United defender catching the eye of Steve Bruce as fans wait for transfer breakthrough

With no new signings taking the field on Sunday, there was a bright-spark that caught the eye at the York Community Stadium.

Thursday, 22nd July 2021, 4:45 pm

Kelland Watts, who spent last season on loan at Plymouth Argyle, played as the left-sided centre-back alongside Federico Fernandez and Jamaal Lascelles and looked very much at home alongside the pair who have more than 300 Premier League appearances between them.

Despite being just 21 years old, Watts looked comfortable battling with strong and physical York forwards and with a year’s experience of League One football under his belt, it’s not a surprise to see Watts relish a physical battle.

However, what impressed most was his calmness and composure on the ball. On numerous occasions, Watts looked to build attacks from the back and get the ball shifted quickly from defence into midfield, something Newcastle have struggled with all too often in recent seasons.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Ethan Laird of Milton Keynes Dons moves away from Kelland Watts during the Sky Bet League One match between Milton Keynes Dons and Plymouth Argyle.

Plymouth, under manager Ryan Lowe, have been praised for their attacking brand of football with Watts playing a key role in building attacks and not being afraid to take the ball up the field.

Watts starred in Plymouth’s 2-1 win over Sunderland in January and missed just two league games over the course of his loan-spell on the south coast, he was even nominated for Argyle’s Player of the Month Award in February, having helped The Pilgrims to an unbeaten month.

If his performance against York can be replicated throughout pre-season, then Watts may begin to give Steve Bruce something to think about, especially if no new defenders arrive before the West Ham game on August 15th.

Another loan spell, possibly to the Championship, may be on the cards but if not and assuming Newcastle stick with a three-man defence, and following the departure of Florian Lejeune, Bruce may have to decide between Watts and Paul Dummett for that left-sided centre-back slot.

Fans will, of course, hope there is a transfer breakthrough before the new season.

But in the meantime this could be a good selection headache for the manager to have however with both players offering different skill sets, something that can be utilised depending on the opposition.

Dummett may be required when a more physical and experienced presence at the back is needed, whereas Watts could be used when Newcastle want to play on the front-foot, keep possession and take the game to the opposition.

Bruce admitted last week that he was excited to see what the 21 year-old could bring to Newcastle’s first-team: “I think it’s important we have a look at him – and see what he’s got,” said head coach Bruce.

“He’s had a successful loan spell at Plymouth. There’s nothing like a young player to have around the squad. He did OK. It was good to see him. I thought it was an ideal opportunity to have a look at him, and we will do over the next few weeks.”

Watts is expected to feature in Friday night’s game against Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium (KO 7pm) in front of a packed away end.

Only time will tell if he does enough over the next few weeks to impress management at Newcastle or whether he spends another year on loan away from St James’s Park.

A message from the Football Clubs Editor

Our aim is to provide you with the best, most up-to-date and most informative Newcastle United coverage 365 days a year.

This depth of coverage costs, so to help us maintain the high-quality reporting that you are used to, please consider taking out a subscription; sign up here.

Your support is much appreciated. Richard Mennear, Football Clubs Editor